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The 7 Essential Quality Tools for Process Improvement

The 7 basic tools of quality (or 7 QC Tools) were conceptualized for the first time by Kaoru Ishikawa, a professor of engineering at the University of Tokyo. They are a set of relativity simple data analysis tools used to support quality improvement efforts.

The 7 basic quality tools are essentially techniques used to identify and fix issues related to product or process quality. When an organization starts the journey of quality improvement, they normally have many low hanging fruits. These could be eliminated with these basic 7 QC tools. The 7 QC tools are fairly simple to understand and implement because they don’t require complex analytical/ statistics to use.

So What Are the 7 Basic Tools of Quality?

  1. Control chart
  2. Flow Chart
  3. Check Sheet
  4. Pareto Chart
  5. Fishbone Diagram
  6. Histogram
  7. Scatter Diagram

Flow Chart

Flow charts are the best process improvement tools that you can use to analyze a series of events. They show you how processes work visually. This tool is mainly used to map out processes to determine where the bottlenecks or breakdowns are in work processes.

Cause and Effect Diagram

The cause-and-effect diagrams can be used to understand the root causes of business problems. This analysis is designed to get into the detailed fundamental causes of the issue, without any bias. The analysis will lead to significant insight into why thingswent wrong.

Check Sheet

A check sheet is a structured, prepared form (document) for collecting and analyzing data to evaluate quality. For example, you can use a check sheet to track the number of times a specific incident occurs.

Histogram

A histogram is a chart that shows how often a value, or range of value, occurswithin a given time period. Histograms provide a visual summary of a large amount of variable data. If the histogram is normal then the graph will have a bell-shaped curve.

Pareto Chart

Pareto charts are charts that contain bars and a line graph. A Pareto chart takes advantage of the 80/20 rule to visually show the categories with the largest impact on a problem. It states that 80 percent of an effect comes from 20 percent of the causes.

Control Chart

A control chart is a graph that displays trends, shifts, or patterns in the output ofa process over time. These charts allow you to identify the stability and predictability of the process and identify whether the process is under control.

Scatter Diagram

A scatter diagram or scatter plot is basically a statistical tool to represent the value of two different variables. The purpose of using this is to find the relationship between the problem (overall effect) and causes that are affecting.

Once a tool is learned, it can be adapted to various problem-solving opportunities. As with everything else, the use of these tools will require some practice and experience. Simply start with the tool that is easiest for you, and over time you will get the hang of it and become a great problem solver!

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6 Key Features Every Quality Management Platform Must Have

Considering a quality management platform for your organization? You’re not alone. Selecting the one that fits your company isn’t easy. Which features are needed to support your processes? How complex does it need to be? Is it user-friendly and intuitive enough for the employees? These are just some questions that you will need to answer during the selection process. In this blog, we discuss six key functionalities that your QM platform must have to support the basics of your QMS.

Automation

The single most important feature of an online platform is the automation. It has to save you and the company a lot of time. Automated notifications can help with staying compliant and reminding people of the areas to focus on. Make sure you come up with these triggers yourself to ensure they work for you and not against you.

Risk Analysis

Managing risks is critical for a proper QMS and at the bare minimum a hard requirement for compliance to the standard. A good quality management platform helps you to list your risks and connect the required actions. The connection between the risks and the actions will give great benefits. Make sure the platform is flexible enough to support multiple Risk Analysis methodologies such as FMEA or Fine & Kinney.

Action Planning

CAPA or action management is the lifeline of your management system. The action list shows how the company improves over time and which steps are taken to prevent issues from occurring in the future. The list can get quite extensive so make sure the interface has enough filters that allow you to find the most important actions that the company is working on.

Non-Conformance Reports / Issues

Another must-have is non-conformance reports (NCR). A lot of analytical data is stored in the non-conformities that happen in the company. A mobile app is a big differentiator for the team. The employees can now easily file an NCR by snapping a picture. When checking for the right solution, always check the analyze features. Running your own custom analysis in the platform will make life so much easier. The flexibility is key, don’t go for pre-defined options—they will become too limited very soon.

Audits and Inspections

Audits are where you can check how the management system functions. A clear interface will save a lot of time. The platform should allow you to have all the information in one screen, like your processes, NC reporting, and the ability to assign points of improvement and other tasks. The inspections are where you can easily make a check on your mobile phone. The inspection should be done on the mobile to save significant reporting time.

Document Management

Effective documentation is important for a well-functioning quality management platform, and every system should have it. Even though it is not required anymore, storing historical information is good for future reference.  With the right document management, you never risk having outdated procedures or work instructions. The system should take care of version control, and make them easily accessible to all

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Quality management is more than compliance or cost avoidance, it is about making real value out of your quality management system and make it part of your organizational culture. With a quality management platform that supports the above features you come along way with creating real value.

If you want to know how Qooling can help you. Please contact us!

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The Truth about QMS platforms vs. alternatives

It remains a bottleneck for many companies—do we opt for a quality management system or do we prefer one of the many alternatives? All solutions have their strengths, but they aren’t always the right solution to stay compliant and get the most out of your quality management. To give you a better insight into the bad and good sides of these solutions, we will shortly discuss the most common alternatives. 

Paper-Based Systems (Supported by Excel/Word)

Many companies still have a paper-based QMS system in combination with Word, Excel, and other Microsoft Office files to keep track of their documentation. The problem in a paper-based system is that companies constantly battle to make sure they are up-to-date with the latest procedures, copies, and more. Such systems require a lot of maintenance and are time-consuming to administer, which does not favor the benefits of a certificate. This approach also has a lot of time-consuming activities such as keying over the information from paper to Excel sheets. This not only costs a lot of time but also introduces lots of errors.

ERP Solutions

The use of ERP “solutions” for QMS has the potential to minimize the number of IT systems and offers “special” modules for certain aspects within QHSE compliance management. However, the fact is these systems are not built to be used as a compliance platform and certainly do not favor the functionality, flexibility, and support of a specialist system. These solutions can work for you, but they come at a cost of missing features and functionalities.

In-House Development

Of course, it is possible to develop a complete management system in-house. Choosing this route is usually the most expensive one. Not only does it cost scarce resources of developers, but it also requires a lot of input from operations. The developers have no idea what to develop. This needs to be analyzed and clarified by the people in the operations. When they help out, they cannot do their own job so the cost gets doubled. An other downside is the requirements of updates. Every time something needs to change the developers need to be available. This will lead to some serious costs to the company.

Specialized QMS System

A specialized QMS system such as Qooling provides the right tools to improve your business so that you can make decisions based on data from within your organization. These platforms are continuously improved based on feedback from customers and other specialists in the field. The updates are part of the package and don’t require additional costs. The fact that these platforms are built for compliance only, means that all the features are present and all aspects from different standards are embedded. The other big plus is that they run out of the box, which leads to an implementation time of weeks, not quarters or even years.

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How to identify ROI for an QMS

It isn’t an unreasonable question for anyone to ask, especially if you are going to ask them to spend money on quality. If you want your business to invest in a quality management platform, you should have some idea of what the costs currently are and how long it takes before you earn back your investment. 

‘’60 percent of organizations don’t know or don’t measure their financial impact of quality’’

Measuring ROI on QMS

There are countless benefits of implementing a quality management platform. Some can easily be measured, while others are more intangible and take place over time. However, the most important fact is that quality management platform can significantly improve the efficiency and consistency within your organization, resulting in improved overall quality. 

To help you understand the ROI on quality management platform, I’ll give you some key success metrics that you can use to track your improvement. 

Paperless Workplace

Manual or cumbersome processes take up resources and slow down productivity. No matter if this is in man-hours or administrative work, this is time spent on the system, rather than the business. A lot of time can be saved in the preparation of paper forms and documents. This could be incidents, work orders, work instructions, toolbox meetings, and so on. 

Greater Client Satisfaction

Quality management platform improves response and customer satisfaction while ensuring that customer reported quality issues are always properly documented and effectively resolve. The possibility of losing a customer based on the problems is very hard to measure but we all know when we screw up too often we will get burned. Having a clear overview of these issues, big or small, will help you get a better feeling of the likelihood of this happening.

Up-To-Date

Keeping employees up-to-date with the latest processes, procedures, and other documents is not only very labor intensive; it is also prone to mistakes. Forgetting to train somebody can lead to serious costs when old formats are used or processes followed. This could lead to missing out on a deal or even losing a customer.

Increased Productivity

The real hard ROI can be measured on time saved. Here also lies quite a number of challenges. Most companies have no idea how many hours are lost with an unstructured management system. Companies don’t track the hours people spend on searching for documents to use or training on new procedures. These are seen as the normal costs of running a business. However, saving on these activities directly impacts the bottom line of the company and therefore can have a significant impact. Try to find a reasonable amount of hours people spend searching for documents within your organization in order to benchmark.

Real Time Insight

A manual or Microsoft Office based management system lacks the real time insight. Data needs to be structured from a Word document to an Excel sheet in order to do some kind of analysis. Besides the time it takes, mistakes are also made. When the data is used and input for business decisions, this means that they are made on the wrong data. Every time data needs to be keyed over to other documents, mistakes are introduced. Make sure you have a single source of truth that can be analyzed in real time.

Get Started 

If you’re at the point where you are ready to find the right quality management system for your business, we can help you. Through a short phone call, our product specialist will look at the problems you are currently experiencing, and will advise you with choosing the right solution that fits your needs. Get started today!

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How to Manage Suppliers Effectively?

Suppliers are a key variable in the quality you can deliver as a company. Whether they supply materials or perform services, they do have a significant impact. Suppliers are almost as important as customers and employees. Therefore, it is crucial they are managed properly and evaluated regularly. 

Suppliers Check

When a new supplier is needed, make sure you do a thorough suppliers check. It is still very common to have the standard checkboxes, generally the ISO certificates is one of those boxes. However, with your knowledge of the certification processes, would you trust the quality of a company solely on their certificate? Especially when they are a key supplier for your product or service? 

You could go for a supplier audit and check their facility yourself. This is very labor intensive and time-consuming, so it’s unlikely you will do this for all suppliers. However, for critical suppliers this might be a good way to start. For less critical suppliers, you can do a paper check. Ask the company to get access to their management system to see how they operate and where their key quality checks are. Also, ask for some additional pictures or maybe a video about their facility to give you a better idea. It doesn’t give the complete picture, but it is much better than just checking the box of an ISO certificate.

Continuous Supplier Evaluation

When you’ve selected a new supplier, make sure there is a proper supplier evaluation process defined, preferably an ongoing process. Tracking minor and major issues related to the supplier is key here. This information is crucial during discussions with the supplier and how to improve the combined efforts. The information could be gathered by performing quality checks on incoming goods and services or by finding out through customer issues. A mobile app is crucial to make it very easy for people to register an issue. Regularly checking on-time deliveries is also a good method to evaluate the supplier.

Periodic check

On top of continuous evaluation, it is good practice to have a periodic check on the key suppliers. This doesn’t have to be monthly, it can very well be quarterly or yearly depending on the importance of the products or services of the supplier. 

This periodic check allows for a more thorough examination of the supplier. Again, this can be on paper or you could go for a supplier audit approach. Make sure you have a concise approach on evaluating suppliers so it is carried out correctly. An audit checklist or supplier checklist is a great way to do this. In this process, it is important you not only look for things that went wrong, but also look for positive things. When the audit is performed at the supplier on-site, make sure the auditor has a proper mobile app to file the audit reports. This makes analyzing the results much easier. 

Not only focusing on the issues but also communicating the positive results with the supplier will help establish a good relationship. Even though they get paid for their service, it is still good for morale to give them a compliment when they did a great job. If you want to go one step further, you can create different statuses for your suppliers. This will give them an incentive to keep up their good service. In the end, you are all in it together.

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Innovating Internal Audit: The brown Paper Audit

Innovative audit method

The Brown Paper Audit is an innovatieve audit method, where people who work together in a certain high level process are invited to map out the process and underlying procedures together. During this exercise people get a good feeling of what happens in the company. After this, the process will be improved in groups and concrete improvement actions are appointed. The brown Paper Audit is very effective in gaining insight into improvement, the prevention of  waste in the process and increasing (customer) value.

The complete group goes through a number of steps to identify opportunities for improvement, and translate these opportunities for improvement into measurable goals and actions. These action are then divided among the team members to create ownership of these actions among them.

Brown paper audit

The Brown Paper Audit offers room for discussing HLS-themes such as leadership, evaluation of performance or communication, and offers space for colleagues to participate. In some organizations it is clear that the distance between quality management and the business is increasing. The Brown Paper Audit brings these two worlds closer together and allows the participants to experience the added value of quality management.

Involve employees

The Brown paper Audit ensures that the focus shifts from checking to actively improving. Employees will feel involved through the innovative approach and employees can contribute to improvement from their own expertise and experience.

The support for this audit method with companies is high because the approach feels natural to the participants. By working with a clear step-by-step plan, the Brown Paper Audit brings structure and allows participants to share wishes, feelings and thoughts. By making time and space for each other, the Brown Paper Audit offers employees the opportunity to talk to each other about the quality in their organization.

Through a brown sheet of paper, post-its and markers the wishes, feelings and thoughts of the participants are collected. The structure makes it easy to name opportunities and causes. In this way a positive collective start is made with continuous improvement. This approach shows that active improvement can be done in a fun and refreshing way, wherby the participant get excited to get started with improvement.

The audit cycle

More than 250 companies have become acquainted with Paper Brown Audit as an audit form and are setting up their audit cycle differently. These companies apply a combined audit strategy, a combination the Brown Paper Audit and classical audits. The brown Paper Audit provides a lot of new insights and concrete improvement actions that the organization can work with, while the classic audit helps in checking facts.

By applying the Brown Paper Audit to a process in which several officers or departments are involved, several subprocesses can be combined in one audit. This allows companies to shorten their audit cycle.

Please check out: www.brownpaperaudit.nl

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The impact of Quality and Safety Management on Project Profitability

Quality and safety are key topics in a number of projects. It already starts during the tender phase. Companies need to prove they have a functional QMS and a proper safety culture. Most companies prove this by showing their portfolio of certificates in combination with their “days without injury” metric. These are all general pieces of information and are used mainly to win the project. However, during the execution of the project, these topics should still get the priority, as they need to check if the company ended up making money at all.

Costs of Quality

Things always go wrong when you try to create something new and that is a good thing. However, it is crucial to register the issues that do occur during the project to be able to have a reality check on the margins. Whenever a supplier arrives late and your team needs to wait or when the wrong materials were delivered, always register the issue. Also, when a part needs to be repaired due to a mistake, register the hours. It is crucial to have this data and take actions to solve them, but never blame the employees because of it. Costs involved in mistakes can be significant and even eat away a lot of the margins. This can be crucial to success, especially in industries with low margins to begin with, like constructions. Hence, register the issues to be able to calculate the margins correctly.

Costs of Safety

Incidents have quite the impact on everybody involved. Even though the injury can be minor, it is always a wake up call of the risks involved in the job. Hence, issues with injuries or even sick days should also be registered. The company should learn from these risky situations and try to avoid them in the future. On the other end, the safety issue can have a big impact on the project. Deadlines might be missed due to the person not being there and morale might be impacted due to the injuries. Putting exact costs on these injuries isn’t easy, but you can always make an estimation.

Project Profitability

As noted above, quality and safety can have a significant impact on the margins of a project. This isn’t an exact science, but adding up all the costs and including some administration costs for handling the issues will give a great idea of the additional costs made to get the project done. These costs were never taken into consideration during the tender phase. Reducing these costs in future projects allows the company to potentially make a healthy profit. These profits can then be used, for example, to reduce the price of the project that gives the company a better position during the tender phase. Looked at it this way, it means that quality and safety becomes an even bigger competitive edge than just having the certificates on the wall.

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Essential Skills Every Quality and Safety Manager Needs

The role of a Quality and Safety manager is changing significantly due to all kinds of technological enhancements. Regardless of these innovations, there is still the interpersonal skills that are required to be a great Quality and Safety manager. The role itself isn’t easy, you need to be likable in order to get information from people, but also be strict at the right time. Employees need to fill in the forms and inspections for you to get the information needed. On the other hand, you need to be strict when someone makes a mess. That last point makes the job so hard. Many Quality and Safety managers are seen as the police of the organization, which they shouldn’t be.

Resistance to Change

As a Quality and Safety professional, you are mostly looking for things to improve. This could be to minimize risks, run processes more efficiently or make them less hazardous. You are continuously looking to change things. This is the root of some of the internal struggles. Most people don’t want to change. They think the company is running fine the way it does. You on the other end are continuously looking for things to improve, it is even embedded in the PDCA cycle. This huge gap in points of view can make it very hard to get anything done. In order to overcome this struggle, try not to push too many changes in a very short time. You might distance the team too much which makes it hard to get them to support you during future changes.

Don’t Police

Still, a lot of Quality and Safety managers are seen as the police agent of the office. They correct people when they are wrong and they use internal audits to check if you stay in line. This is far from the truth but this perception still exists in a large number of companies. It is important to get this picture out of people’s mind. Never point fingers and don’t blame them. When something goes wrong look at how the processes can be changed to avoid it in the future. Just don’t blame the people. Except when they do not only break a process but also the law, then it is the people’s problem.

Use Examples

Especially in safety, visual examples why changes are required work great. It is crucial everybody goes home the same way they arrived in the morning. Sometimes changes are required to reach this goal. These changes might make some activities more time consuming due to the safety preparation. Explaining why these activities are so important helps a lot, showing a picture of how it will help them is key. It isn’t all that easy but keep explaining this to people.

Feedback

Give people feedback when they help out. When they take their time to fill in a form or report an incident, make sure you give them feedback of the actions. This direct feedback keeps people engaged and involved. They see how the company takes actions when the employees report something.  Automating the feedback reduces a lot of time.

Conclusion

You don’t have to be friends with everybody, but it is critical to be among the people and have their respect. This is the only way they will share knowledge with you and listen to you. In the end, you cannot change anything on your own you need the employees on your side to reach these goals. Published by:

Effective Technique to Prioritize Your Actionlist

Setting priority on pending actions is more of an art than a science. It is a continuous struggle to divide the resources available across the actions pending, and every company has to deal with this. We are continuously changing priorities on certain actions based on the changes in the landscape.

There are a couple of techniques you can use to prioritize the different tasks, which we will discuss in this post. However, it is very important that when you have made the decision to put the resources behind certain actions, that you keep them there. Otherwise, you might end up with a lot of unfinished tasks, and this could be disastrous.

Low Hanging Fruit (High Impact/ Short Period)

These are the actions that require relatively limited time but give you some good results. They are the no-brainers in your actions list and easy to finish. Make sure you put these high on the priority list because they give you immediate results. These actions are very important to improve the quality and safety awareness in the company because employees will also notice the changes.

Strategic Actions (High Impact/ Long Period)

These are the actions that require a lot of resources but deliver the company great results. Due to the lengthy process, employees don’t see the results quickly. It can even be the case that improvements occur gradually and employees don’t even notice them at all. However, they are crucial for the long-term strategy of the company. Think about awareness progress for safety.

(Low Impact / Short Period)

When there are still resources available, you could make a decision to work on these actions. Due to their short time period, it is relatively easy to finish them but their impact is pretty low as well.

Then we are left with the Low Impact / Long period type of actions. These are mostly not worthy enough to put any resources in. However, there could be changes in the environment that change the urgency of these actions. That is why it is important to keep them in mind.

Using this technique, you should be able to prioritize the tasks that need completing in order of the time they will take and the impact they will have. Then you can spread the resources among them to ensure the company is progressing and improving in the best way possible.

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Digitalise your Weld Management

The administration related to Weld Management has been increased significantly and is getting more complicated with new standards and changing laws. Every weld produced needs to be traceable for as long as the structure is used. Managing all this information is a hell of a job. For every weld, a significant amount of information needs to be filed. Think about the material certificates, the welder and the NDT report. This information should be organized, stored and easily retrieved when some authority asks for it.

Old School

A significant amount of companies handle weld traceability with a combination of Word and Excel files. There is nothing wrong with this technique, it just costs a lot of time and is prone to mistakes. The files are printed and left somewhere in the shop, and the information is added by pencil. The manually written data then needs to be typed into a digital Excel file, which holds all the information for the weld and the weld register. A big problem is that not all the necessary information is available to the people in the shop. If the information is available, it is often outdated and unusable. Next to the Excel file, a lot of data is stored in other places such as drawings, material certificates and welding procedures. When the dossier needs to be created at the end of the project, all of this information needs to be gathered from every corner of the office or shop and compiled. Even at this stage, a lot of information is missing which costs a lot of time and duplicated activities just for the sake of reporting.

Digital Age

Having all the information at the fingertips on a tablet will of course decrease the overall administration of the welds. Besides the time saved, it also reduces the number of errors in the data. The information will be created exactly at the point when the actions have taken place. The material certificates will be linked to the weld right when the weld has been created by the administration. Then when the welder is done the administration is updated right away. Every person involved in the process has the latest and most up-to-date information which prevents duplicated activities and increase efficiencies. The time saved is tremendous.

Analyzing

When the data is gathered, the company can really start to analyze the welds. Lead-time of a weld can be monitored quite easily, material ready for welding can be managed and planned, and reworks can be analyzed. The company can start to find relationships in the data, like for example which weld type leads to the highest reworks or whether reworks are going up when the lead time of a weld goes down. Hence, digitalization not only gives companies the chance to introduce efficiencies in the process, it also allows for analysis of the data to improve the process even further.

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